What was your first job in publishing?
“It was as an assistant to three directors at a literary agency, Watson, Little Ltd. It’s great that it still thrives but is today shaped so differently. ”
How did you become an agent?
“I had a useful background to be an agent. At the end of my time at Quercus Books Meg approached me about joining her at Ki. It took us a while to get to know each other better and in the end the attraction of working with Meg and Ki was too great to ignore.”
How long have you been at Ki and what was your previous job?
“I’ve only just arrived at Ki Agency. My previous job was as Head of International Rights at Quercus Books.”
What are the key skills an agent needs to do their job?
“The unoriginal but correct answer is: The ability to keep a large number of irons in the fire and to always believe that each work that comes your way could be genuinely original.”
On a day to day basis what is the most challenging aspect of your work?
“At this early point in my career at Ki, when I am seeing so much new writing, it is a challenge to be controlled enough not to leap at everything I like but to wait for those works that are truly saleable.”
Who has most influenced you in your career
Is there anyone in the book/film/tv industry you particularly admire?
“Most recently I would say Christopher MacLehose, the former Publisher at Harvill Books and now at his own imprint, MacLehose Press where I looked after his rights. Christopher is a true maverick and committed contrarian who publishes books I want to read- and which I sought to read before I ever met him. I have a large collection of Harvill Books. When you consider who he has published you can’t help but be awed. Murakami, Mankell, Hoeg, Richard Ford, William Maxwell, Anna Polytovskaya, Raymond Carver, Javier Marias, Jose Saramago, Roberto Saviano and Stieg Larsson to name a mere handful! He’s a hands on Editor, a relentless traveller and having achieved everything is still vigorously at it! I’m happy to say he is also a friend and someone from whom I can and do seek advice. ”
If you hadn’t become an agent what would you be doing today?
“Running a business of some kind- the shape of businesses small and large interests me: a record shop, a bookshop, a coffee shop, a small publisher, if viable, a combination of all? If earning a living was no issue just living on an island and near water. I’d like to live on the North coast of Mallorca.”
Who is your favourite writer?
“At the moment it is Ernest Hemingway. I am stunned by his craft. An old favourite is Robert Graves: Goodbye To All That is truly brilliant and very modern for its day, although not now very fashionable! In truth, my favourite writer changes constantly. When I was young I loved Paul Auster and Ian McEwan whom I now find barely readable. Sometimes it is Murakami. For craft I also admire William Maxwell, Georges Simenon, Jose Saramago, Paul Theroux, Roger Deakin and Henning Mankell. For exuberance I like Pedro Juan Guttierez. The things I read need to be enriching or have a point.”
Who is your favourite fictional character?
“Even though he frustrates I like Toru Watanabe from Murakami’s Norwegian Wood or the mysterious Major Quive Smith from Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male.”
Do you have a favourite quote?
“The Reverend Sydney Smith’s Advice on Low Spirits to Lady Georgiana Devonshire. It’s too long to quote here but I advise anyone to look it up.”
[Meg says: here’s the link http://www.futilitycloset.com/2012/10/10/advice-concerning-low-spirits/ ]
What is your favourite book/film/tv show/computer game?
“A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway- masterful in its concision and the best book on Paris in the 1920s. I also regularly re-read The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono and Dubliners by James Joyce. As you may tell, I like concise books and unelaborate writing. TV wise I like Scandinavian drama- especially Yellow Bird’s Wallander. It has to be with Krister Henrikson in the title role.”
Name a book you couldn’t finish.
“Fools Alphabet By Sebastian Faulks, which was recommended to me. Books I can’t finish seem to behave badly around me and lose themselves- this one was left on a train. I bought it a second time and left it on the roof of a car as I drove away.”
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
“If writing commercially, identify a readership which makes your writing viable. Keep a journal. Write every day. Less is more in everything. Write a good first line.”
Do you write yourself? If so where?
“I don’t have the compulsion necessary to be a real writer- I prefer to leave it to professionals…”